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First Day of Bergen Gun Buyback a 'Phenomenal Success'

Sheriff's department collected more than 740 firearms from five locations across Bergen County in the second-ever Bergen County gun buyback.

The line stretches to the steps of Our Lady of Mercy Church in Park Ridge at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. Grandmothers, retired law enforcement officials and camo-clad hunters stand side-by-side, waiting to turn in firearms in exchange for cash.

"It's been like this all day," said Bergen County Undersheriff Bob Colaneri, pointing to the bins near the church wall. "We've collected about 200 firearms, and that doesn't include the airsoft [guns] or the ammo."

Some bins hold newer handguns, while others feature inoperable weapons from conflicts a century ago. 

Neatly perched between the handguns and rifles in Park Ridge are five assault rifles. Among them are AR-15s and AK-47s.

Sponsored by the Bergen County Sheriff's Department, the second-ever anonymous buyback on Saturday yielded 747 firearms at five church locations in Hackensack, Garfield, Park Ridge and Maywood. 

Sheriff's deputies collected 708 firearms – including two assault weapons – in 2010, the year the county held its first-ever gun buyback. By the time the weekend is over — firearms will be collected across Bergen County Sunday as well — sheriff's officials will have far surpassed that total. 

It continues the trend witnessed in Essex, Mercer, Camden, Morris counties. More than 10,000 guns have been turned in since the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 14.

"It's gone phenomenally well," said Richard Moriarty, a spokesman for the Bergen County Sheriff's Department. "We collected several hundred weapons today, ranging from long weapons, hand guns and assault weapons. It's been an overwhelming success."

Many who turned in weapons on Saturday had inherited the unwanted firearms.

"They were my husband's," said Jean Butler outside the steps of Mount Olive Baptist Church in Hackensack. Her late husband, Mark Butler, was a Hackensack police officer. Since his passing in 2004, Jean Butler said she'd been concerned about the pair of handguns in her Paramus home.

"The grandchildren come over often," she said. "I just wanted to make sure the house is safe."

Retired Emerson police officer Rick Mottley expressed similar feelings. His two handguns "hadn't seen the light of day" in years, he said. With teenage children in the house, he worried an accident could turn tragic.

Sheriff's officials and religious leaders concede it's unlikely hardened criminals are chomping at the bit to turn in weapons but say the program is worthwhile anyway.

"Criminals are not going to turn their guns in," said Hackensack-based Rhema Worship Center Pastor Eric Brewer. "These are responsible citizens turning in the guns. People are concerned for the greater good of humanity and realize, 'I have to get these guns out of my house.'"

Forfeiture funds provided by the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office are used to pay for submitted weapons. The program hands out $300 for assault weapons, $100 for hand guns, $80 for rifles and shutguns, and $20 for inoperable weapons.

Confiscated guns are run through ballistics to determine if they were used in the commission of a crime. If clean, the weapons are destroyed.

Six houses of worship in Englewood, Teaneck, Fair Lawn, New Milford and Hackensack will collect firearms on Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.

"We just hope today was an indiciation of what's going to be a great weekend," Moriarty said. "The fact that we have taken handguns off the street as well as assault weapons today is a great indicator of an overall very successful program."

Malcolm from Mahwah April 14, 2013 at 11:21 PM
I love these things, just got back from the one in Fair Lawn. Went out with almost two dozen 100 year old beat to hell spur hammer revolvers and single shots and walked out with enough cash for at least 2 brand spanking new AR-15's.
Peter Dinella April 14, 2013 at 11:55 PM
I rest my case. See above comment. Malcolm is a realist; Ridgewood Mom lives in la-la land.
same old April 15, 2013 at 11:25 AM
malcolm isnt a realist he/ she is i liar on a message board. hes probably a 16 year old kid in his moms basement who has never owned a gun in his life. Malcolm why dont you post a picture of your "2 brand new AR-15s" for everyone to see?
same old April 15, 2013 at 01:41 PM
malcolm isnt a realist... he's a liar. hes probably a 16 year old kid typing in his mothers basement and never owned a gun in his life. hey malcom, why dont you post a picture of you "2 brand spanking new AR-15's"?
RidgewoodResident April 15, 2013 at 02:20 PM
Broken window economics is fun.

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